How can I tell if my cat or dog has fleas?

Out of all of the external parasites that can affect your pet's health fleas are the most common. If you don't have your pet's fleas treated early they can cause infections and serious diseases. Here, our vets in Los Angeles discuss the signs of fleas and how you can treat or prevent them.

What are fleas?

Fleas are external parasites that require an animal host to survive but, if you don't take the necessary actions to get rid of them and break their life cycle the adult fleas will keep reproducing on your cat or dog and throughout your home. 

What are the signs of a flea infestation?

Your pet might have an allergy to a protein in the flea's saliva, which is why they tend to scratch immediately after being bitten by a flea. Just a lonely fleabite can make cats and dogs agitated leading to excessive itching and scratching. 

Other than scratching, red bumps or pimples might appear on your pet's behind, belly, at the base of their tail, on their groin, or beneath their legs. Consistent itching and scratching of these areas can lead to hair loss and dry skin. Your pet could also develop lesions and infections which can lead to more severe diseases if the fleas go without treatment. 

How can I check my pet for fleas?

Adult fleas are small and brown and are generally easy to see with the human eye. 

We recommend checking your pet's comb or brush when you are grooming them. Having your cat or dog lay on their side will allow you to get a closer look at the areas that have thin fur, such as the abdomen. 

You might be able to see "flea dirt" which looks like tiny grains of sand, or black pepper when wet. To look for flea dirt (feces), use a fine-tooth flea comb (available at your vet's office) to comb along your furry friend's underbelly or back. By having your pet stand on a white towel or cloth while brushing them, you should easily see any black droppings that fall off your companion's fur. 

What if I don’t see any fleas, but my pet is still itching?

If there are no signs of fleas but your pet is still scratching, schedule an appointment with your vet, who can administer a skin test to check for flea allergies, in addition to other types of allergies during your visit. Your pet may be reacting to another type of allergy that's making them uncomfortable.  

My pet has fleas, how can I get rid of them?

A number of safe and effective treatments can be used to eliminate fleas, including shampoos, sprays, powders, and topical liquids. You may need to visit your vet for prescription creams and antibiotics if your pet's case is more severe. 

Early treatment and prevention are the first methods of choice to ensure your cat or dog doesn't develop more serious issues in the future, as a result of fleas. 

If your cat or dog is suffering from fleas schedule an appointment with our vets at Washington Dog and Cat Hospital who will be able to provide you with the best course of treatment for you and your pet.